Plaza San Juan, 1 Axpe-Marzana, Atxondo- Bizkaia, 48291, Spain

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Etxebarri is tucked away in the hills near Bilbao, and has become famous in foodie circles for the obsession of self- taught chef/patron Victor Arguinzoniz with grilling food (he has been at these premises since 1989). The kitchen has two wood-fired ovens and a custom grill, using a variety of woods to impart flavour to the produce that is cooked.  The 18th century building contains an upstairs dining room that was more formal than I was expecting, with white linen tablecloths and well-spaced tables, with a wood floor. 

The wine list is remarkably good value.  1997 Rioja Alta 904 was listed at EUR 42 for a wine that will cost you EUR 32 to buy in the UK in a shop. Similarly Dagenau Silex 2007 was just EUR 85 compared to a retail price of about EUR 74, while Vina Ardanza 2000 was EUR 28 compared to a shop price of about EUR 22.  Even the greatest of Spanish wines, Vega Sicilia Unico, was listed at just EUR 150 for the 1996 for a wine that will set you back more than this (EUR 173) in a UK shop, while the divine Salon 1996 champagne is EUR 240 compared to a retail price of around EUR 225. It is lovely to encounter a list such as this, where you feel free to indulge in a fine wine without any sense of being ripped off.

Bread consisted of a large, white, rustic country bread, which had quite rough texture and did not seem to me to be perfectly fresh (12/20). The first dish to appear was chorizo on toast, featuring excellent chorizo without a hint of the stringiness that can occur (16/20). Even the butter here is smoked, appearing with ash.  White tuna was grilled and served with high quality tomatoes, the fish getting a hint of smokiness from the preparation (16/20). 

A single Palomas prawn was stunningly fresh, again simply grilled and served whole, the flesh delicious (17/20). Clams and frogs legs followed (16/20) and then superb mussels (17/20). Grilled squid was excellent, without any chewiness whatever (17/20), while a piece of grouper took on the smoky flavours well (16/20). Finally a generous portion of excellent beef appeared (17/20), carefully cooked medium rare as to my request, again with a lovely flavour (17/20). A cream ice cream on red berries was refreshing (15/20) followed by an apple tart with smoked ice cream, with reasonable pastry (14/20). 

Service was attentive throughout. Overall I found Extebarri a very enjoyable experience, and the wine list offered remarkable value. Simple food with high quality ingredients, done well: if only more restaurants could follow this philosophy.

Further reviews: 23rd Sep 2014

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User comments

  • Jeffrey merrihue

    I just returned from Etxebarri for the 2nd time and agree with each line of your review but would simply up the scores. This is the essence of cooking without the ponciness and the Galician grilled rib eye is simply the best on Earth

  • Richard Clarke

    I visited Extebarri (and Mugaritz) over the past weekend (May 2011). I think Extebarri has the most stunning setting of any restaurant I have ever been to, and (luckily) the food to match, so it has not declined since your visit. Its worth adding that there is still the 120 euro tasting menu but also an al a carte. We ordered from this (as it was a warm lunchtime), including most of the best sounding bits from the tasting menu (beef, prawns - we got 4 to the tasting menu 2, ancovies - again double the portion and many more amazing dishes); Drank a beautiful bottle of white rioja (predicador) and the bill was €170 for 2, brilliant value for the situ and food.

  • Greg Brozeit

    Etxibarri may be the most unique restaurant I have ever visited. I was fortunate to have been there three times last year, each a different season, all for lunch. I would say the winter, early spring season was my favorite. It's not for everyone and even if you don't like the pervasive taste from the woods used for cooking, you can't help but admire the skill and passion demonstrated by the chef. The grilled prawns are among the great courses anyone can get anywhere. I only wish I could have had a basket of them. Other treats like the grilled caviar (who knew?) and smokiness of the butter are so unique and special that I find it impossible to convey the experience in words. If you are traveling in the Bilbao/San Sebastian area, you can't go wrong making the short trip into the mountains. For those who speak English only, like me, the assistant chef, Lennox, could hardly make you feel more at home and prepared for an experience that is unmatched by any other culinary experience.